Is Monet’s art optimistic? The aficionados at the Neues National Gallerie in Berlin (pictured left) the aficionados seem to think so. The en plen-air style has such a silly effect on people in galleries. It is faux-idyllic adornment for them. Every woman, mother, and little girl walks by the light-colored oil paints and smiles to themselves, reassured that Monet’s art makes everything beautiful for them. Simply, their “beauty” is dishonest. They would hang the prints up in summer garden houses so they’re bourgeois neighbors can chat about it over tea. Monet, that is, amongst their pastel swans, their ornamental pine cones and nasty Thomas Kincades. How revolting!

Of course, they loved the summerly “Etes” (on the right). The smiley-faced critics would use words like “humorless” to describe some of the other works in the Neues Gallery. In fact I heard them say in Prague that Picasso was incomprehensible! And then they walked off with smug grin on their faces. I like those incomprehensible works, for what it’s worth. Perhaps even you, Monet, are incomprehensible at times. But this whole business about smiling unrepentantly at art I don’t understand. Perhaps because I find nothing to smile about Monet’s art. To me the impressions (or, “little blobs of spit” as one critic said) appear like bouts of insanity over a sad, almost blase, fleeting moment. So the smiling gesture is completely obscene to me. My little gallery notebook is chalk-full of comments about the paintings, and many of the meanest ones are directed toward the faux-aficionados who think smiling at art is required of them. Honestly, it isn’t a fail-safe response to anything in a gallery. When they saw Otto Dix’s “War” in Dresden–a very bizarre Guernica-like depiction of the barbarism of war–they cringed and nearly left the gallery. Canadian women are the worst. (Political isolation also becomes artistic isolation.) This lady in the pink parapet smiles at everything in the Neues Gallery so absurdly, the kind of look unparenting women give to whiny children while the parent’s are trying to shush them up. Hodling her dainty audio-guide in hand, she will be sure to get a well-rounded chorus of “appropriate responses” to fill her head.

I might even tag this blog “absurd gestures toward art“. (But then, to be fair, I would need to also list the antithetical “appropriate gestures toward art” as well.) I think to be always smiling at a thing you hardly understand seems more like a code of conduct for a cast of circus clowns. After seeing many cheery “Frauen Kopf”s in galleries I don’t think I feel the urge to smile back at them. Not at this point. Maybe when I’ve seen over a hundred, then perhaps I will have developed a well-established relationship, enough at least, to smile back in a non-retarded way.